- Reminiscent of McCarthy’s The Road.
- Written like a fantasy novel.
Maybe I read too much in the fantasy (and YA ) genre but this book really reminded me for example of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Neil Gaimain’s Stardust, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series just to name a few. Yet, at the same time, there was that eerie feeling I also had with McCarthy’s The Road and Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. I am really impressed by this novel and I love these mixed emotions it evoked. It was fantastical and almost too real at the same time.
The book opens to a theater scene of Shakespeare’s King Lear and the main actor Arthur Leander dying on stage. This sets in motion a series of seemingly unrelated stories, which perfectly interweave throughout the novel but always return to the life of Arthur Leander and his influence on others. St. John Mandel flawlessly jumps from stories pre- to post-collapse of society as we know it in a very nearly random manner giving us glimpses of her character’s old and new lives and somehow manages to build a network of existences that shape each other. She does so in twists and turns covering topics as opposite as love and death, as brutal as despair, captivity, and survival and as paramount as rediscovery, friendship, and freedom taking us on a journey of revelation and fate. I found myself unable to put the book down eager to know what will happen next and how this character’s story might be related to the next. Skilfully placed props such as a graphic novel and a paperweight for example accompany us through time and connect the world before and after the pandemic in a very constant way. St. John Mandel manages to remind us how complex, yet fragile our lives are and how dependent we have become on things other than ourselves.
I highly recommend reading this book. It is not just beautifully written but it also keeps you captivated until the last page. And that makes for excellent reading!